An article by Noah Forrest
People love lists for some reason. We simply can’t resist them. We see links in our news feeds, like “top 10 celebrity couples children’s dogs” and we feverishly click on the URL as if we actually give a shit. I’m just as guilty as anyone, I click away on these things like an idiot all the time. I always hate myself when I do though, generally feeling like I just watched some questionable porn, or I kicked a dog.
Using lists as clickbait has further cheapened the already pretty dismal internet content we find when scrolling through our social media of choice each day. It’s right up there with the “… and you will never believe what happened next” garbage. I’m actually curious if I get more traction on this article simply because I added it to the title. If I do, that really sucks because it means that “MTL Blog” has won, and that would mean the apocalypse is nigh.
Anyways, as much as I secretly click on lists, but publicly denounce them, I have actually enjoyed seeing the various top 5/10/20 Quebec beer lists that other bloggers and beer folk from my wonderful province have put out every year. That is why I decided to finally do one. So, as much as I feel kind of dirty writing this article, I’m going to do it in the way I like best: with nauseatingly long descriptions and tasting notes.
2015 has been a monumental year for the Quebec craft beer scene. In 2013 and 2014, we finally saw the creation of readily available American style IPA’s like Moralité from Dieu du Ciel and Yakima from Le Castor. Those years also spawned a new era in barrel aging, with many big & bold offerings being thrown into bourbon (and other spirit) barrels. 2015 seems to be the year of wild ales and sour concoctions. Brettanomyces, lactobacillus, and all kinds of microflora made their way into many fantastic Quebec beers this year. Breweries like Brasserie Dunham and Trou du Diable continued to experiment with these processes, fine tuning their techniques, and Le Castor and Les Trois Mousquetaires, newcomers to the wild beer scene, released some exceptional Brett beers this year.
With two very young kids, I don’t leave the house, so this list will include bottles only, and will only be Quebec based beers that are brand spanking new to 2015. Also, although I do try most Quebec offerings, it’s possible there is a bottle out there that I missed that would have blown my mind. Oh well. So I present you with Beerism’s top 10 Quebec beers for 2015. In no particular order.
Several of the reviews below have been taken from previous Beerism articles.
10. Farmhouse houblon – Le Castor
Farmhouse Houblon is the first Brett beer from Le Castor, and would have easily landed in my top three for this year if my list had been shorter. It pours out a bright, slightly foggy orange colour with an ample, pillowing head. The nose wafts lots of dusty brett phenols, mixed with huge hoppy aromatics, like apricot, strawberries, and citrus fruit. Coupled with this are big fruity esters, lending red berries to the mix. There is a bit of a tangy smelling saison yeast component, mixed with some slight barnyard – and again, loads of hops.
It is beautifully dry as expected, with a lingering bitter finish that seems to be more from the tannic-like brett phenols, rather than a resinous hop bitterness (although there certainly is some). This beer is all about symmetry, and its brilliance is in its ability to confuse the drinker’s palate. It provides a plethora of fruitiness from distinct but equally potent variables – hops and yeast. Apricots, oranges, and general tropical fruit meet phenolic bitters, which remind me of grape skin, citrus rind or simply under-ripe fruit. It will truly be interesting to see how these pieces change over time as one fades and the other gains momentum.
9. Chevalier du Funk – Le Castor & Brasserie Dunham
Chevaliers du Funk is the first collaboration between Brasserie Dunham and Le Castor. It’s a well hopped sour Brett beer that hit the scene in early summer. I first tried it at Mondial (Montreal’s largest beer festival) and it blew my mind.
The aroma is highly acidic, with loads of bacterial biproducts, alongside a musty, dank presence as well. Tangy saison yeast smells also arise, with some fruitiness from the hops. It’s very sour up front, providing a hefty grapefruit and lemon component that compliments some of the fruity complexities and bretty funk. There is an earthiness as well, which works with the acidic properties much like a lambic. Of course, this is not a lambic, but a good attempt at local sour Brett beer. It’s much cleaner than many Brett beers, but it’s still incredibly complex given the layers of hops, yeasty phenols and highly acid properties.
8. Hérétique – Dieu du Ciel!
Hérétique was first released in early 2015 at a brewery only bottle release. I only got one bottle at the time, and immediately regretted not getting more. Luckily, they released it again a few weeks ago as part of a mix pack. It’s base is a version of their Belgian IPA called Dernier Velonté, however it is entirely Brett fermented in Pinot Noir oak barrels.
The nose begins quite bretty, with lots of vinous notes. There are loads of dusty aromatics, some funky barnyard, and dank basement. It’s also fruity, with tangy apples and lemon zest preceding some oak, hints of vanilla and cider-like sweetness.
The body is robust, but goes down smooth. It has a nice phenolic bitterness, and some slight hop complexity, but nothing aggressive – far less than the other Dernier Velonté iterations. It’s quite fruity like the nose, with a tangy pear and apple thing, followed by a big dry white wine component that lends nice tannins to the mix. The finish rests on the palate with a lingering oak presence and a huge dusty brett profile. There is also a lingering Gueuze-like grapefruit thing, which is a difficult to describe sweet-and-bitter tart combination, with a microflora phenolic component that is rather delicious.
7. Assemblage #5 – Brasserie Dunham
Assemblage #5 is the latest installment in the Brasserie Dunham Assemblage series. It’s also one of the most complex blends to date, bringing in a huge number of beers. Assemblage #5 is a blend of:
- Gouden Meyer (Belgian ale with Meyer lemon) aged in Chardonay Barrels.
- Cyclope Alpha (IPA) aged in White wine barrels with Brett.
- Troika (Session White Farmhouse IPA) aged in white wine barrels.
It pours out a bright glowing orange colour with an ample yet reserved head resting on top. The nose wafts tons of dank and musty brett funk, followed by some apricots and freshly cut pineapple. An abundance of brett fruitiness immerses itself alongside the hoppy aromatics, creating a fruit salad of complexity. Floral citrus rinds, papaya, and a whole bonanza of tropical smells start coming out as the head dissipates and the dust settles. It’s further complimented by some robust wine soaked oak, providing a vinous complexity, making this nose quite brilliant overall.
The mouthfeel is robust, with a light but creamy body that carries that tingling effervescence one only gets from bottle fermentation. Like the nose, this is exceptionally fruity, with lots of brett esters and loads of hop goodness. The brett profile is spot on with a drying character that compliments a rather intense bitterness. There is a beautiful hop profile that dances alongside the dusty brett phenols. The two marry perfectly, and some vinous oaked components add even more depth, creating a beer that speaks to my taste buds more than most. Although the intense flavours attack your senses, it is still rather delicate and goes down easily, almost feeling on the lighter side. However, it never tastes watery. At first, it was difficult to place the Meyer lemon, but over time it starts to emerge in the long and dry bitter finish, with lemon rinds echoing the beautifully floral and aromatic nature of the fruit. This may just be my favorite Assemblage to date.
6. Saison Brett – LTM
The first time I had Les Trois Mousquetaire’s Saison Brett was on cask about two years ago at La Cuvee (local winter beer festival). It was an awesome, funky spectacle, and when I heard bottles were going to finally hit shelves, I was a very happy boy.
It pours out a sexy yellow orange colour, with a nice frothy head that sticks around. The aromas are dank, floral and musty, mixed with some oak and wine remnants. It smells dusty, with citrus and acidic highlights – mainly lemon zest, and hints of grapefruit.
It’s mouth puckeringly dry, with some sharp but restrained lactic acid properties. It’s got a light mouthfeel, with wheat flavoured malts, and a slight bitter finish, that lingers alongside a big acidic grapefruit tongue hug. The dusty Barnyard Brett properties are much more apparent on the nose. Instead the flavours lean more towards the acidic edge, with an extremely dry mouth feel, coupled with big fruity brett esters. It finishes with some dank oakey elements, coupled with a nice drying and bitter tannic finish.
This sexy beer has the dusty and sour microflora complexities that so many of us have grown to crave. Although I’d personally like to see it have a tad more body, this is truly a remarkable beer, one that’s paving the way for a new era of farmhouse ales in Quebec. Also, one extremely important thing to note is that this beer is around 8.99$ for a 750ml, which is unheard of for a barrel aged brett beer in this province. Kudos!
5. Petite Mort – Brasserie Dunham
Petite Mort is an 11% Russian imperial Stout by Brasserie Dunham that has been aged in Armagnac, Cognac, and Brandy barrels. Their “regular” bourbon barrel aged imperial stouts are some of my favorites in Quebec, so I was pretty excited about this one. Bourbon barrel aged stouts have been the staple for sometime now, but brandy and other types of spirits are getting more popular these days for barrel aging.
Petite Mort pours out like motor oil, with a thick & perfect dark beige head that rests there atop the sexy black goodness underneath. There is lots of brandy soaked oak on the nose, mixed with a great milk chocolate and freshly ground coffee thing. There is a bit of solvent booziness mixed in, alongside some sweet doughy chocolate chip cookies to contrast. There are also some hop aromatics as well, which lend a subtle spiciness to the rest of the rich aromatics.
Wow, this is beautiful, and everything I adore in an imperial stout. It’s exceptionally dry, with a resinous, potently bitter finish. The brandy/Cognac is there, but restrained, only adding subtle complexities to the rest of the flavours. You get the alcohol for sure, but at no point is it too much (at least for me). The chocolate & coffee dark roasted malt flavours are on point, and the body is big and luscious – as it should be. There isn’t much more to say really. The beer may be complex, but what makes this a gem for me is just how straight forward it is; it’s all the things I want a barrel aged imperial stout to be. Sure, it’s certainly lovely to drink those amazing and crazy bourbon forward examples like Bourbon County Brand Stout, but there is a special place in my heart for barrel aged stouts that let the beer shine through more than the spirit barrels they were aged in.
4. Tribal Double IPA – MaBrasserie
MaBrasserie finally started canning their beer last month after going through several hurtles. They kicked off with three hoppy beers, but their double IPA in particular was something special for me.
It pours out bright orange, with a thick foggy body. There are big dank aromas of wet grass and pine, followed by citrus fruit and earthy funk with that citra cat piss thing that I love (at least I presume it’s citra).
It’s extremely full bodied, but goes down easy. There is some sweetness, but it’s cut down by an impressive resinous bitterness. It has everything a DIPA should have, citrus fruit, cat pee, grapefruit, strawberries, and some caramel malts. The bitterness lingers on the palate, leaving a ruby red grapefruit thing.
The 9% is well integrated, being masked by the sweet malty body. The alcohol and the bitterness help dry it out. Some other beer folk found this too sweet, and I get why, especially considering how dry I like my IPA’s. That being said, this one just worked for me; I thought it was perfectly balanced and I’d buy it over and over.
3. Le Cerbère – Dunham/Vox Populi/Simon Gaudreault
Le Cerbère is a Vermont inspired saison that has been aged in white wine barrels. It is a collaboration between Brasserie Dunham, Microbrasserie Vox Populi (gypsy brewer Etienne Turcotte), and Simon Gaudreault (blogger and taster for the SAQ).
It pours out an extremely foggy yellow-orange colour. There is lots of musty and earthy funk, followed by tart and sour aromas which give off a pretty strong lemon aura. It certainly smells of lactic acid, alongside a tad bit of wine and some oak (although minimal).
Oh yeah, plenty of sourness here, but nothing too aggressive either. There are lots and lots of citrus accents – especially lemon. It’s very dank and musty, with a light yet creamy low-carbonation mouth feel. In one way, this makes it easy to gorge on, but on the other hand I have to say it leaves me pining for more tongue-prickling effervescence. The finish is tart, and leaves a lingering funky microflora flavour on your palate. It’s got that great earthy and musty acidic nose (being very reminiscent of Hill Farmstead), which makes it so enjoyable to drink, while inhaling this intoxicating aroma upon each sip. The finish is nice and dry, leaving a tangy musty flavour of film on the back of my tongue.
2. Framboëse 2015 – Brasserie Auval
Auval hit the scene a few months back with an incredible (and unheard of) trio of sexy and funky beers. Their IPA blew my socks off, but Framboëse was just too impressive to leave out of my list. For me, this is one of the best fruited beers to ever be made in Quebec.
It pours out a beautiful cherry red colour, with a small head that dissipates rather quickly. The nose is dank, with fermenting raspberries and lots of acidic properties. The aromatics are full of life, penetrating my senses with loads of fresh raspberries, mixed with that awesome Jam-like fun you find in fruited Lambic. This is coupled with oak, lots of vinous wine qualities, and some dusty brett phenols.
It’s exceptionally dry, with a lingering sour tang that rests on your palate. There are lots of tart raspberries up front, and a vinous wine barrel quality that compliments the tartness nicely. The pithy fruit tannins lend a drying character that is perfectly integrated alongside the other flavours. Some of that jammy fruit thing comes through as well, although less than on the nose. This is extremely easy to drink, and would be ideal in the summer months. At 5% ABV, you can crush this. This is exceptional.
1. Ceci N’est Pas une Gueuze – LTM
Ceci N’est Pas Une Gueuze is the brainchild of Les Trois Mourquetaires and their brewmaster, Alex. It’s a three year blend of acidified beer that spent lots of time in barrels being inoculated by the microflora living in the oak. It’s a great achievement, and certainly one of the best beers this year.
It pours out a deep copper colour, with brilliant clarity. Oh my god, I want to bathe in the aromatics of this nose. There are loads of tart cherries, mixed with a massive barrel character that lend spicy and woody cinnamon-like qualities. It’s super vinous, carrying loads of wine-like aromatics and tons of acidic components, coupled with some slight sweet caramel essences. There is just so much oak, which blasts my nostrils with all these beautiful vanilla undertones, mixed with a tingling acidic edge.
Just like the nose, there is so much oak, with these spicy wood-like flavours leading the way. It’s quite fruit forward as well, with loads of sour cherries and some orange and grapefruit rinds mixed in with lemon juice. That being said, it’s very dry, and finishes with a pretty potent, mouth-puckering sourness. The fruitiness is perfectly balanced against the bitter tannins, and provides a direct compliment to the general tart and sour components. There are slight ascetic acids mixed in as well, but it’s certainly not the show-runner here. The oak, the fruitiness, the acidity, and the plethora of complex microflora based aromatics work to make this beer something truly special and amazing.
Bonus Mention – Baril Unique – LTM
This year, LTM also released a very special beer called “Baril Unique,” which was their Baltic Porter exclusively aged in a 37 year old bourbon barrel. The only reason I didn’t officially include it here was because there were only 200 bottles made, however it is certainly one of, if not the best thing I drank this year. I wrote an entire article about this bottle, which you can check out right here.
So that’s my list, I hope you enjoyed it. And if you are still wondering “what happened next?”, well I simply loved all of them very much. Pretty exciting stuff.
An article by Noah Forrest